[News] Why Aristide's Party Won't Vote - Interview with Dr. Maryse Narcisse of Fanmi Lavalas

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Nov 17 13:14:13 EST 2010

November 17, 2010

Interview with Dr. Maryse Narcisse of Fanmi Lavalas

Why Aristide's Party Won't Vote


Dr. Maryse Narcisse is a physician, coordinator 
of the Fanmi Lavalas executive committee and 
spokesperson for Fanmi Lavalas in Haiti. Fanmi 
Lavalas is the political party founded in 1996 by 
President Jean Bertrand Aristide, now living in 
forced exile in South Africa. The interview that 
follows, conducted in Haiti in September, has 
been edited for clarity and length by the 
interviewer and Narcisse. Excluded from 
participating, Fanmi Lavalas remains firm in 
condemning the Nov. 28 presidential and 
legislative elections as illegitimate and will 
not participate, according to Narcisse.

JUDITH SCHERR: What is Fanmi Lavalas?

Dr. MARYSE NARCISSE: Lavalas is a grassroots 
political organization that works with the 
poorest, the marginalized people, those in need of support.

SCHERR: What do you mean “in need of support”?

NARCISSE: For almost 200 years, the majority of 
Haitians have been excluded from participation in 
the political life of this country. They’ve also 
been excluded through lack of access to 
education, healthcare and other basic services. 
Lavalas is fighting for real changes in Haitian 
society by advocating for access to health 
services, education, economic opportunities and democracy in Haiti.

December 16, 1990 was an important date: For the 
first time, the Haitians voted in a free and fair 
election and elected Jean Bertrand Aristide to lead the country.

SCHERR: What was Aristide’s role in the formation of Lavalas?

NARCISSE: Aristide created Fanmi Lavalas. He 
symbolizes the fight of poor, marginalized people in this country.

SCHERR: With Aristide in exile, Lavalas continues – is that correct?

NARCISSE: Yes. Fanmi Lavalas is a duly registered 
political organization. President Aristide is in 
exile, but Fanmi Lavalas is still functioning as 
a political organization. But since President 
Aristide’s forced departure, Lavalas has been 
targeted by the Haitian government and its 
allies. Members and sympathizers of Fanmi Lavalas 
Party have been harassed, wrongfully jailed, or 
fired from their jobs. There has been a lot of repression.

SCHERR: Why can’t Lavalas participate in the Nov. 28 elections?

NARCISSE: The Haitian government and its allies 
are illegally preventing and excluding Fanmi 
Lavalas, from participation in the electoral 
process. The Haitian government, some powerful 
Haitian sectors and a part of the international 
community have excluded the people -- the 
majority. Fanmi Lavalas’ exclusion is political, 
in violation of Haitian law and international human rights law.

As required for any political organization, Fanmi 
Lavalas has been registered here in the country 
at the Ministry of Justice since November 1996. 
Fanmi Lavalas has the certificate of official 
recognition by the Ministry of Justice. Fanmi 
Lavalas participated in many elections -- in 2000, 2001, etc.

Now, let’s go back to the legislative elections 
of April and June 2009. On Dec. 3, 2008, a new 
electoral council (Provisional Electoral Council 
or CEP) asked all parties – all political 
organizations – to register again for the 
electoral process. So we re-registered and have 
Registration Form No. 016 signed by the CEP 
representative and me as coordinator. Everything 
seemed to be working correctly. After the 
registration, there was a period for people to 
contest the registered parties. That period ended 
in January 2009. The CEP published the list of 
parties that were authorized to participate in 
the April and June 2009 legislative elections. 
Fanmi Lavalas was third on this list.

After that, they opened a registration process 
for the candidates. Fanmi Lavalas signed a 
mandate as required by electoral law for every 
candidate we had chosen to represent the 
organization. They verified my signature and the 
12 Fanmi Lavalas candidates were registered.

At the end of the candidate registration period, 
there was a rumor going around that Fanmi Lavalas 
registered more than one candidate for each 
position. I did not believe it, because the 
selection process was public within the 
organization -- we had an electoral commission 
which chose 12 candidates and we couldn’t have more than 12 candidates.

SCHERR: There wasn’t another list of people claiming to be Fanmi Lavalas?

NARCISSE: We learned that another person, Yves 
Cristallin, registered additional candidates 
under the Fanmi Lavalas banner. We couldn’t 
believe it. First, the deadline for contesting 
party registration was over and secondly, 
according to electoral law, only the person who 
registered a party could sign a mandate for the senatorial candidates.

SCHERR: And you had already registered the party.

NARCISSE: Yes – but the Haitian government 
allowed him [Yves Cristallin] to register 
additional candidates under Fanmi Lavalas. Soon 
after, Cristallin joined the private office of 
the president and after that he was appointed 
Minister of Social Affairs. Today he’s a presidential candidate.

[At this point, the CEP disqualified Fanmi 
Lavalas because there were two different 
candidate lists presented.] We went to court to 
challenge the decision of the electoral council 
to exclude Fanmi Lavalas from participating in 
the election. We won, but the CEP refused to 
accept our participation in the April and June 2009 elections.

SCHERR: You won in court, but the CEP could overrule what the judge said?

NARCISSE: No. The CEP cannot overrule or 
disregard a court order. The CEP decided not to 
respect the [March 9, 2009] court decision and 
wouldn’t allow us to participate. At that time, 
we sent the original mandate signed by President 
Aristide [authorizing Narcisse as the 
representative]. The CEP allowed someone with no 
authority to represent Fanmi Lavalas to register 
additional candidates after the period for 
registration had ended and tried to blame Lavalas for the additional candidates

The CEP violated Haitian law and actively 
participated in preventing Lavalas participation 
in the elections. That is not the purview of an 
electoral council. [Fanmi Lavalas boycotted these 
elections; turnout was variously reported between 3 percent and 11 percent.]

There was another election scheduled for February 
28, 2010. We received a letter from the CEP 
inviting President Aristide to participate in the 
coming electoral process. I sent the letter to 
President Aristide [in South Africa] and he 
answered it. He wrote a letter to the CEP 
president thanking him for the invitation, but 
said that he mandated me to represent the 
organization before the electoral council until 
he returned. When I brought the letter to the 
CEP, they said “Oh, we don’t want a copy of the 
letter.” They said they wanted the original 
letter, not a copy or a fax. President Aristide 
was ready to speak personally with the CEP 
president to tell him that he had sent the 
letter, that the letter was authentic and to send 
an e-mail directly to him. The CEP President 
refused to provide his email address, or his telephone number at my request.

President Aristide sent the original letter by 
DHL [international mail service] from South 
Africa. The letter was notarized by a Haitian 
notary. We brought the letter to the CEP. At a 
press conference the next day, the CEP said the 
original letter and copy were different. Rumors 
about a false mandate and probable arrests started to circulate.

SCHERR: They said you had brought a false document?

NARCISSE: As stated before, the documents were 
notarized by a Haitian Notary -- he attested to 
the authenticity of the documents. In addition, 
President Aristide, during an interview on Nov. 
25, 2009 on Radio Solidarité further 
authenticated the mandate, saying, “I’m the 
person who wrote the letter, who signed it, who 
sent it.” According to Haitian law, a mandate can be verbal as well as written.

The next day I received a letter from the CEP 
saying they wanted an authenticated mandate. It 
seems that to authenticate the mandate, President 
Aristide had to find a Haitian consulate in South 
Africa, go in front of the consul and sign the 
document. But there is no Haitian consulate in 
South Africa. So, if he had to sign it at a 
Haitian consulate, he would have to travel to do 
it. But he can’t travel, because he doesn’t have 
a valid passport. He has had no valid travel documents for six years.

When President Aristide spoke on the radio, he 
said he was ready to come to Haiti to sign the 
document. If the government would give him travel 
documents he’d be here the next day. The Haitian 
government is refusing to allow President Jean 
Bertrand Aristide to travel to Haiti.

The February elections didn’t happen because of 
the earthquake. When they started the Nov. 28 
electoral process, President Préval announced 
that everything that had been done before the 
earthquake, regarding the February 2010 
legislative elections, was still valid, and that 
they weren’t going back: Fanmi Lavalas would 
continue to be excluded from the 2010 elections.

There is no registration issue regarding Fanmi 
Lavalas, the problem is that the CEP is not 
allowing Lavalas to participate in the November 2010 elections.

By excluding Fanmi Lavalas from the elections 
(the largest party with support and membership of 
90 percent of the electorate) the government is 
excluding the majority of the Haitian electorate 
from exercising their right to choose their own candidate.

For us, the coming elections that are scheduled 
for Nov. 28 are not fair; they are not honest; 
they are not democratic. Nobody supporting this 
process believes in democracy, even the 
international community. The international 
community is providing most of the funding for 
the elections. That’s hypocrisy: The 
international community speaks loudly about 
democracy and human rights, but supports and pays for illegal elections.

SCHERR: Is Fanmi Lavalas calling on people to boycott the elections?

NARCISSE: I have said we are not participating in 
an illegal election. The Nov. 28 elections are 
not elections, it is a selection process. What 
we’re doing now is mobilizing people, sensitizing 
people against the selection. With this selection 
process, we are not going anywhere. We are moving 
towards instability that will last for many years.

Eight months after the earthquake, nothing has 
changed. People are in the streets. If you go 
inside a camp [for earthquake survivors], you can 
see the situation. People are living in 
conditions that human beings are not supposed to live in.

Now, in addition to this difficult social 
situation, the government and the CEP want to add 
a political problem. So, what we’re doing, is 
trying to make people understand that these 
elections cannot happen. If they select someone, 
this person won’t have any legitimacy and will 
not be able to bring changes in the people’s 
living conditions. Our work now, is to mobilize 
the people against the Nov. 28 selection.

SCHERR: At this point, you can’t go to court again. There’s no judicial path?

NARCISSE: The Préval government has weakened all 
the institutions in this country. The judicial 
system is very weak. The Senate has only 16 
senators [terms of other Senators and all 
Deputies have expired] and consequently the 
Parliament is not functional. So the only 
institution functioning is the presidency. We 
want a country with strong and functioning 
institutions. All the current process is doing is 
to further weaken the Haitian institutions.

So it’s clear to us, that now, we Haitians have 
to fight for our rights. There is nothing else to 
do. The government is not informing the Haitians 
about the reconstruction. All of the so-called 
government plans for reconstruction are made 
abroad. There is no Haitian participation in the 
reconstruction. We have a puppet government. Even 
myself -- I’m a professional – I cannot tell you 
very much about the reconstruction process, 
because nobody knows what the government wants to do.

SCHERR: Tell me about the status of President 
Aristide. He doesn’t have a passport. What does he need in order to return?

NARCISSE: The government is refusing to provide 
him with a passport. According to Haitian law, 
any former president’s supposed to have a 
diplomatic passport for life. When you finish 
your presidency, that’s a benefit that you’re 
entitled to receive from the state. This is not a 
favor. This is what they’re supposed to do according to the law.

SCHERR: Has there been pressure from the 
international community either to return him or to keep him out of Haiti?

NARCISSE: I believe that the international 
community is exerting pressure for him not to 
come back to Haiti. But they are not doing it 
openly; they are operating behind a curtain. They 
do not want Aristide to come back. After six 
years, he’s still present in the people’s hearts 
– in everyday life here, everyone talks about 
Aristide. Even in these elections, you can see 
that people – every candidate, even if they were 
against Aristide in the past – talks about 
President Aristide. I heard a candidate who was 
in the opposition, saying, “If I’m elected today, 
tomorrow or the next day Aristide will receive his passport.”

SCHERR: Didn’t Préval say that when he was running?

NARCISSE: He never said anything when he was 
running. Préval campaigned for president without 
speaking. He benefited from his close ties with 
Fanmi Lavalas. All the people were thinking: it’s 
better to have him, a person close to Lavalas; 
this is the best chance for Aristide to come back to the country.

We must come back to principles. I’m against the 
fact that when you finish your presidency, you 
have to leave and be exiled. If the individual 
has done something wrong, he should be judged. He 
should be arrested. The story of Haiti has been 
that most presidents go into exile. For Aristide, 
it was different. He was not exiled after his 
term in office. It was a coup; he was forced into 
exile before he finished his term.

SCHERR: Is there anything you want to add that 
people should know about Lavalas?

NARCISSE: First I’d like to inform U.S. readers 
that their tax money is being used to support a 
non-democratic process in another country. I 
think they have to know that, because what is 
being done with the upcoming Nov. 28, 2010 
election is contrary to human rights and 
democracy. Fanmi Lavalas and other political 
parties have been excluded from participating in the Nov. 28 selection.

What we need today is reconciliation. We need a 
legitimate government. We need a national and 
strong Haitian leadership. We need to work 
together for the reconstruction of Haiti.

Judith Scherr is an independent journalist. She 
can be reached at <mailto:judithscherr at gmail.com>judithscherr at gmail.com.

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